Wednesday, October 17, 2007


I was sitting alone earlier this evening wondering what to blog about, and the things that gave me chills over the years starting coming to mind. I shall tell you about them here so you can share in the nightmares I may be setting up for later this night.

My grandparents lived in what was once a Colonial home. At he top of the central stairway was a door which used to be the outside door on the north side of the house. It had a single panel on the bottom and 20 panes of glass. One of the glass panes was broken. It had a large, wicked hole a person could put their hand through. I hated that hole, and had nightmares about it when I was young. My grandpa was not fond of me, so the glass went year after year unrepaired. Many years later, my grandmother disclosed that my father had broken it when he was a child, and it had remained that way for half a century! I replaced the glass and never had the nightmare again.

I can’t explain exactly why a broken window should be so scary, but it was. How do I know I’m not just crazy? Because filmmakers use these kinds of “scary” images to give us the creeps in their films—even though it would be hard to define why certain things make our spines tingle. I present some examples:

Anna Mobley, in the movie “Ghost Story,” when she is standing on the deck facing the ocean and says “I want to see the life run out of you.”

The ordinary Honeywell thermostat in “The Sixth Sense” which drops fifteen degrees just before the ghosts appear.

Jack Nicholson in “The Shining,” leering at the model of the hedge maze in the Overlook Hotel… and seeing his wife and child running around in the model.

The bleeding walls of “The Amityville Horror.”

The bullet holes in the swimming pool of the “Ghost Ship.”

Carrie White’s hand reaching up from the pit where her house once stood, which is part of the sole survivor’s dream at the end of the film, “Carrie.”

The 1930s electrical fixtures in the Dark Castle remake of “The House on Haunted Hill.” Even the intro to the movie is a creep-out.

The images collected in the deadly videotape, central to “The Ring.”

Are there oddball things like this that give you chills?

Monday, October 8, 2007


I just came back from a fun weekend at the annual West Texas Book and Music Festival in Abilene, Texas. Looks like ghost stories are pretty popular!

On the left side of the picture is author Olyve Hallmark Abbott (what a great name!) Her new book is “A Ghost in the Guest Room,” featuring 57 haunted Texas inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and hotels.

On the right side of the photo is author Elaine Coleman, who wrote two books I already owned: “Texas Haunted Forts” and “Louisiana Haunted Forts.”

Behind me to the right (where you can’t see) is author J.A. LeVitt, whose young adult novel “Ghosts of Whitner” is reviewed in a previous blog entry.

I, Byron C. Justice, have my table in the background on the right (look for the orange “clouds” on my display easel).

Out of less than 200 authors, four of us presented books about ghosts. Take heart, ye lovers of the spine-tingling tales—you are not alone!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I met this author last weekend at the West Texas Book & Music Festival in Abilene, TX. She had won a publishing package from WordWright for this book.

I read the book that evening at the Abilene KOA. As it is just 76 pages written for young adults, it took me less than forty minutes.

I LOVE this story! Arthur has my dream job. He researches the history of ghost towns. One summer, he takes his mother, his 11-year-old daughter Josie, and his 7-year-old son Ron to live in the abandoned iron-smelting town of Whitner, Alabama, while he studies the town’s sudden, unexplained demise.

It isn’t long before Josie finds out they are not alone among the derelict buildings. We know right away that Josie’s new friend Lucy is a ghost, but it will be several more days before Josie figures that out.

GHOSTS OF WHITNER is, in many ways, a mini version of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Author J.A LeVitt has done a wonderful job of weaving a message of friendship, forgiveness, and family into a story that is surprisingly suspenseful and scary. In spite of the simple language she uses, detailed images pop right into the mind. The ending left me quite satisfied, unlike so many other young adult titles in this genre (like the Goosebumps books) which discredit their own plots by attributing the ghostly events to dreams, pranks, or other convenient coincidences.

Yes, there is murder behind the downfall of Whitner. The kids witness death there, too, and approach a murderer in an attempt to right some very old wrongs. If that makes you nervous, treat yourself to this fun little book before you pass it on to your 9-year-old!

Monday, September 24, 2007


I have heard some concerns lately about “disrespecting” survivors of a crime or natural disaster in suggesting that ghosts may remain. I guess that’s why Eastern Airlines was so uncooperative with the investigations into the appearances of the ill-fated pilots Repo and Loft after the crash. Here is a link to this well-documented story, which was the subject of a book and a film in just a few years after the crash killed everyone on that plane:

Although I hear a lot of noise about respect for the dead in the wake of Columbine and 9/11, and nothing at all about the victims of Katrina, I don’t know of anybody who thought investigating ghosts after the 401 crash was disrespectful. We made two movies about the heroes of Flight 93 (also on 9/11), so why is it taboo to make a film or write a book about Katrina, the World Trade Center, or Columbine, all perfect ghost makers?

Sunday, September 16, 2007


My long-awaited book of campfire ghost stories officially launches today! All of the details are on the website,

Okay, I know there are plenty of ghost story books out there. But that’s the point—lots of folks like ghost stories. Many of these books have been in print a long time. There are books of classic ghost stories, books of true ghost stories, books of ghost stories for your kids. There are even two other sets of books of ghost stories marketed to Boy Scouts.

So where does HAUNTED CAMPS fit in?

First, send the Cub Scouts to bed before telling a chilling tale from this book. The stories are truly scary, intended for people above the age of 13. One of the Scout campfire book series, which I’ll review in another post, is geared to young children. The teenage crowd wouldn’t even think it was funny, let alone scary. The other series, those by William Forgey, has a few good stories in it, but also has stories teenagers today would laugh at. The stories in HAUNTED CAMPS, while not as edgy as Stephen King tales (no vulgar or explicit content), will turn the ho-hum campfire into a spellbinding night of terror! But not to worry… (usually) everything is back to normal when daylight comes.

HAUNTED CAMPS includes two little-known classic tales: “The Lost Trail To Dead Oak Crossing” and “The Purple Bishop,” which I recreated from memory. Several of the stories relate to local Scout camps: Lost Pines (“Fire Across the Lake”), and Camp Urland (“The Ballad of Timothy Squirrel”). Texas’ State Parks become haunted in “Vernal Pools” and “Black Stain.” Two of the stories—“The Hole” and “Just Like Being There”--are modern.

I have encountered two of the ghosts myself: the stealthly specter known as “The Purple Bishop” and the wandering “Ghost Car” which appears in lots of places.

I can’t wait to see what your reaction to HAUNTED CAMPS will be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Author D.S. Dollman (<-- the picture is not her!) of the online group JustGhostStories found a recent haunted house article in the Great Falls Tribune apparently related to a 1975 disappearance of a woman who lived there.

What is really interesting is the comments. Readers were upset that the Tribune was so callous in sharing this “un-news-worthy” item so soon after the disappearance. (32 years ago!) This brought to mind how our society goes so overboard to make sure there won’t be any lingering memories.

We completely remodeled Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. They bulldozed the Luby’s in Killeen, Texas because of the shootings there. I remember a McDonalds that met a similar fate, but I don’t remember where it was. And more recently, an Amish community built a whole new school rather than fix the bullet holes in the old one.

I remember they didn’t tear down the clock tower at the University of Texas after the shootings there. In fact, I’m a bit fuzzy about when we started razing every building where a mass murder occurs, but I know a place where a most grizzly crime took place that still exists, and I’ve been in it many times!

First, let me warn you. The murders were BAD. Do not read the rest of this post if you are eating.

There is a building on the Southwest Freeway at Westpark in Houston we all know as the Haunted Malibu. It was a Malibu Gran Prix family fun center, with a go-cart track and an arcade. One night in the early ‘80s, just after closing, three disgruntled employees entered the building and murdered everybody. All five victims were mutilated. One 19-year-old, who tried to hide in the bathroom, had a 12-inch knife twisted into his brain like a corkscrew. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) The “gentleman” pictured above was found guilty of this murder.

If you look this up on Wikipedia, it says the place was shuttered because of the murders, but not so. After a short while, the center reopened. My Scouts went there many times after washing cars on Saturdays, between 1986 and 1993. When we had someone with us that didn’t know about the murders, we would watch them use the restroom. Often they came out and said something like: “What’s up with that bathroom! I can’t go with somebody watching me!” I swear, from personal experience, that no one is ever alone in that bathroom, and the sensation is most uncomfortable.

The building was a car dealership for awhile, but now it stands abandoned and forlorn, a canvas for gangs to post graffiti on.

What do we accomplish when we destroy a place where ghosts remain? Does it hurt the ghosts? Obviously tearing down the scene of the crime doesn’t satisfy a spirit’s unfinished business, so what becomes of them?

Monday, September 10, 2007


One of my online friends is Darla Sue Dollman, a lady who is often pestered by ghosts and loves to write about them. She has a brand new author website,, and the interview she did with me about my upcoming book, HAUNTED CAMPS, is the first thing on it!

While you’re checking out my interview, be sure to read her short story about shadows. It’s a simple story that will leave you knowing that ghosts are cool!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I had an occasion recently to think of movies I found really scary. There is “Ghost Story,” “The Changeling,” “The Shining,” “Ghost Ship,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

Long before any of these was a 1960 William Castle movie called “13 Ghosts.” Not to be confused with the 1998 flick from Dark Castle, which took barely a kernel of the original’s plot and smothered it in gory computer graphics.

I was a wee five years old when I saw “13 Ghosts” on television. The film ends in a peculiar murder where ghosts crush the victim in a four-post bed. I had a nightmare about that in my own bed that night.

Some time back I rented the movie to see what it was I found so frightening. It wasn’t the setting. The ghost collector’s house was plain and typical of 1950s architecture, filled with modernistic furniture of the era. It certainly wasn’t the effects, which were primitive and went on too long. The actors weren’t that creepy, either. Maybe ‘twas the black-and-white. But more likely my imagination added stuff that wasn’t really there. Five-year-olds do that a lot.

One thing interesting about this movie was the theater version featured something called “Illusion-O,” meaning that you had to wear special glasses (similar to the primitive 3-D type) to see the ghosts. In fact, the people in the film had to wear special glasses to see the ghosts! I still think that’s a clever, if quaint, idea. Some of the DVDs even retain that feature, but don’t come with the glasses.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


As a Scoutmaster, it's nice to know I'll have friendly company when I get around to my afterlife hauntings. Scoutmaster Steve of Troop 68 in Melrose, MN found this 1975 comic of Casper the Friendly Scout on Ebay. Read the rest on A Scoutmaster's Blog.

By the way, we don't cotton to evil spirits in the Boy Scouts, but I have heard of a poltergeist or two hanging around camp!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


There’s something about the left side of this gate at Goliad State Historical Park in south Texas.

Weirdness: inside the museum stands a model of the Mission Espiritu Santo. At the location where this gate is now, the model builder inserted a man doubled over in agony.

Weirdness: In some old maps there was a well at this location. The area does sink, and has been filled in with concrete.

Weirdness: One Halloween weekend I stayed at this park and I was completely alone in it. On another Halloween weekend the park was crowded. Soon after sunset, multitudes of costumed people lit torches and marched into the mission chapel. It was most bizarre and quite against the posted rules in Texas state parks, and it did not seem to be appropriate for a chapel. Park rangers were nowhere to be found! The next Halloween, it was empty again.

Extreme Weirdness: In 1986 we stayed at the park on a full moon. A presence at this gate called several to go there around midnight. Those that dared to walk across the place returned to our screened shelter crying for no reason. They did not understand what happened to them. The experience changed the course of their lives, and not for the better!

More Weirdness: I have seen this place in my dreams since I was a young child, long before I had been to Texas.

I believe this may be a portal through which evil spirits pass. After seeing the effect it can have on people, I won’t walk over that spot, day or night!

The area has plenty of reasons to be haunted. Goliad has a violent history. For instance, in 1836 Santa Anna executed 300 prisoners here who thought they were about to be released. Legend has it that the San Antonio River that runs through the park turned red with blood! Across the highway, an actual apparition haunts the old Presidio.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


In 1991, while on a high-adventure trip with my Boy Scout troop, we had a most spiritual time in Santa Fe. That particular morning, we went out to Nambe Falls to go swimming, then came back into town later for the afternoon. A summer thunderstorm came up, and we ducked into the Woolworths on the historic plaza square to escape the deluge. From the television over the coffee bar we learned that a whole family had been swept away by a wall of water that came crashing down a normally dry arroyo. We had crossed that same place four hours earlier.

That evening we took a ghost walk on which we were privileged to see the Staab House (click the link to read about it). The house is completely surrounded by the modern La Posada Hotel. What they don’t tell you is WHY the house is inside a hotel. So I will…

Julia Staab loved that Victorian mansion, but it eventually passed hands to the folks who built La Posada. But Julia’s ghost would not let the construction workers tear down the house. At times she was violent. Other times, the workers just became sick. The builders had to give up. But they built the hotel anyway, with the complete Staab mansion contained inside it! This turned out to be a good business move, too—the ghost of Julia Staab is still quite active, and the hotel gets a premium rate from those souls brave enough to stay a night in the haunted house!

The photo was taken in the sitting room. We couldn’t see Julia, but we could sure feel her presence!

Monday, July 16, 2007


Earlier this evening I reviewed a book over on my “Scouts From The Big City” blog titled: “The Ghost of Mount Chinati,” by Walter LeCroy, a fellow Texan. It is the story of a Boy Scout named Corbie Ransom and his close encounter with the Marfa Lights.

Marfa is an isolated small town in West Texas. The lights appear shortly after sundown above the hills south of town. Many folks have seen these lights. They appear often enough to have received significant media attention. Yet no one has been able to prove what they are.

Above is a photo of Enchanted Rock in the Texas hill country, the crowning jewel of the most popular park in the state. The solid granite dome rises 500 feet above the surrounding country. The landmark is considered sacred by the Indians. At night, flashes of light are sometimes seen that appear to originate in the rock. Again, no explanation is offered. There does not seem to be any correlation with weather conditions or the moon.

Anybody have thoughts to contribute about these mysterious lights?

Thursday, July 12, 2007


When I was young, the country had a fascination with outer space. Cars had spaceship fins and “rocket” taillights. I understood that. Space travel was our fantasy, culminating in the 1969 moon walk.
We also had another fascination with things paranormal and even slightly macabre. For kiddies, Casper the Friendly Ghost. For those liking a little humor with their hauntings, there were the Munsters and the Addams Family (not relegated to late-night, either). For mild goosebumps, one could indulge themselves in The Twilight Zone. And who could forget Dark Shadows, the twisted, but unique, soap opera. I confess I was too young for Night Gallery when I first watched it. I had recurring nightmares after that.

Unlike the space infatuation, I don’t know the reason for spook popularity, other than going trick-or-treating twice a year (once for UNICEF, and once for candy). It was all fun and not taken too seriously.

A lot of us would agree that the offerings today in the ghostly genre are seriously scary and often too gross. But my question is: does anybody remember why ghosts were so popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s?